Email: Chapter 31G
§31G-4-4. Public Service Commission jurisdiction; rulemaking; enforcement.
(a) The Public Service Commission shall possess and exercise regulatory jurisdiction over the provisions of this article. The commission shall administer and adjudicate disputes relating to the issues and procedures provided for under this article.
(b) The commission shall adopt the rates, terms, and conditions of access to and use of poles, ducts, conduits, and rights-of-way as provided in 47 U.S.C. § 224 and 47 C.F.R. § 1.1401 – 1.1415, inclusive, of the dispute resolution process incorporated by reference in those regulations and any subsequent modifications or additions to the provisions of the United States Code or Code of Federal Regulations provisions referenced herein.
(c) The commission shall certify to the Federal Communications Commission that this state, as evidenced by the enactment of this article, hereby exercises jurisdiction over the regulation of pole attachments. The certification shall include notice that the State of West Virginia hereby:
(1) Regulates the rates, terms, and conditions related to pole attachments; and
(2) In so regulating such rates, terms, and conditions, the state has the authority to consider and does consider the interests of the subscribers of the services offered via such attachments, as well as the interests of the consumers of the services.
(d) (1) Notwithstanding subsection (b), the commission shall promulgate rules to address abandoned cable, conductor, and related facilities attached to utility poles. The rules shall include provisions that:
(A) Provide for the pole owner to fully recover from the owner of the attachment the costs incurred by the pole owner for the removal and disposal of abandoned cable, conductors, and related facilities;
(B) Address situations where the pole owner is unable to receive full recovery of its removal and disposal costs from the owner of the attachment by instead receiving recovery of its net unrecovered costs from its jurisdictional customers, including other Attachers, in such manner as the commission determines is just and reasonable; and
(C) Allow the pole owner to book or defer these net costs on its accounting books and request recovery to the commission outside of a base rate case proceeding through a surcharge or other rate recovery mechanism.
(2) Any pole owner, after making reasonable efforts to require the attachment owner to remove abandoned facilities, that proceeds to remove what the pole owner reasonably believes is abandoned cable, conductor, and related facilities, shall be released and held harmless from liability from claims or any related losses claimed by the Attacher or others for the pole owner’s removal work, including any loss of property value, potential business value, salvage value, or any other value of such cable, conductor, and related facilities.
(e) Notwithstanding subsection (b), the commission shall promulgate rules to govern the timely transfer of facilities from an old pole to a new pole and the removal of utility poles that have had electric facilities moved to new poles but continue to have other facilities attached in the telecommunications space on the old existing poles. Should the attached facilities not be transferred in a timely manner from the old pole to the new pole by the owner of the attachments, as determined by the commission, the rules shall address this matter and include the right and mechanism of the pole owner itself to transfer the facilities to the new pole, to remove the old pole, and to recover its costs fully and timely from the owner of the facilities transferred. Any pole owner who transfers facilities from an old pole to a new pole, after reasonable due diligence, shall be released and held harmless from liability for its transfer work, except for acts of negligence or willful misconduct.
§31G-1-1. Legislative findings and purpose.
The Legislature finds as follows:
(1) That it is a primary goal of the Governor, the Legislature and the citizens of this state, by the year 2020, to make every municipality, community, and rural area in this state, border to border, accessible to Internet communications through the expansion, extension and general availability of broadband services and technology.
(2) That although broadband access has been extended to many of West Virginia’s cities, towns, and other concentrated population areas, some areas of the state, mostly rural, remain unserved.
(3) That the issues which have hindered the provision of broadband access to rural areas of the state especially disadvantage the elderly and low-income households.
(4) That fair and equitable access to twenty-first century technology is essential to maximize the functionality of educational resources and educational facilities that enable our children to receive the best of future teaching and learning is essential to the future development of this state. A quality educational system of the twenty-first century should have access to the best technology tools and processes. Administrators should have the electronic resources to monitor student performance, to manage data, and to communicate effectively. In the classroom, every teacher in every school should be provided with online access to and the ability to deliver the best available educational technology resources to the students of West Virginia. Schools of the twenty-first century require facilities that accommodate changing technologies.
(5) Accordingly, it is the purpose of the Legislature to provide for the development of policies, plans, processes and procedures to be employed and dedicated to extending broadband access to West Virginians, and to their families, by removing restraint on the development of those services and for encouraging and facilitating the construction of the necessary infrastructure to meet their needs and demands.
For the purposes of this article:
(1) “Broadband” or “broadband service” means any service providing advanced telecommunications capability with the same downstream data rate and upstream data rate as is specified by the Federal Communications Commission and that does not require the end-user to dial up a connection, that has the capacity to always be on, and for which the transmission speeds are based on regular available bandwidth rates, not sporadic or burstable rates, with latency suitable for real-time applications and services such as voice-over Internet protocol and video conferencing, and with monthly usage capacity reasonably comparable to that of residential terrestrial fixed broadband offerings in urban areas: Provided, That as the Federal Communications Commission updates the downstream data rate and the upstream data rate the council will publish the revised data rates in the State Register within sixty days of the federal update.
(2) “Council” means the Broadband Enhancement Council.
(3) “Downstream data rate” means the transmission speed from the service provider source to the end-user.
(4) “Internet protocol address” or “IP address” means a unique string of numbers separated by periods that identifies each computer using the internet protocol to communicate over a network.
(5) “Upstream data rate” means the transmission speed from the end-user to the service provider source.
(6) “Unserved area” means a community that has no access to broadband service.
§31G-1-3. Broadband Enhancement Council; members of council; administrative support.
(a) The Broadband Enhancement Council is hereby continued. The current members, funds, and personnel shall continue in effect and be wholly transferred from the Department of Commerce to the Department of Economic Development; except as may be hereinafter provided. With regard to the terms of the public members appointed under subdivision five, subsection (c) of this section, at the next regular meeting of the council following July 1, 2017, the currently serving public members shall draw by lot for the length of their terms, three members to serve for one additional year, three members to serve for two additional years and the last three members to serve for three additional years, with all public members in future to serve for the duration of the term described below.
(b) The council is a governmental instrumentality of the state. The exercise by the council of the powers conferred by this article and the carrying out of its purpose and duties are considered and held to be, and are hereby determined to be, essential governmental functions and for a public purpose. The council shall be situated within the Department of Economic Development for administrative, personnel, and technical support services only.
(c) The council shall consist of 13 voting members, designated as follows:
(1) The Secretary of the Department of Economic Development or his or her designee;
(2) The Chief Information Officer or his or her designee;
(3) The Vice Chancellor for Administration of the Higher Education Policy Commission or his or her designee;
(4) The State Superintendent of Schools or his or her designee;
(5) Nine public members that shall serve no more than three consecutive three-year terms from the date of their appointment and are appointed by and serve at the will and pleasure of the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate, as follows:
(i) One member representing users of large amounts of broadband services in this state;
(ii) One member from each congressional district representing rural business users in this state;
(iii) One member from each congressional district representing rural residential users in this state;
(iv) One member representing urban business users in this state; and
(v) One member representing urban residential users in this state; and
(6) Additionally, the President of the Senate shall name two Senators from the West Virginia Senate, one from each party, and the Speaker of the House shall name two Delegates from the West Virginia House of Delegates, one from each party, each to serve in the capacity of ex officio, nonvoting advisory members of the council.
(d) A chair and vice chair shall be elected from the members of the council for a term of two years: Provided, That a chair or vice-chair may not serve more than two consecutive full or partial terms in that capacity. In the absence of the chair, the vice chair shall serve as chair. The council shall appoint a secretary-treasurer who need not be a member of the council and who, among other tasks or functions designated by the council, shall keep records of its proceedings.
(e) The council may appoint committees or subcommittees to investigate and make recommendations to the full council. Members of these committees or subcommittees need not be members of the council.
(f) Seven voting members of the council constitute a quorum and the affirmative vote of a simple majority of those members present is necessary for any action taken by vote of the council.
(g) The gubernatorial appointed members shall be deemed part-time public officials, and may pursue and engage in another business or occupation or gainful employment. Any person employed by, owning an interest in, or otherwise associated with a broadband deployment project, project sponsor, or project participant may serve as a council member and is not disqualified from serving as a council member because of a conflict of interest prohibited under §6B-2-5 of this code and is not subject to prosecution for violation of that section when the violation is created solely as a result of his or her relationship with the broadband deployment project, project sponsor, or project participant so long as the member recuses himself or herself from board participation regarding the conflicting issue in the manner set forth in §6B-2-5 of this code and the legislative rules promulgated by the West Virginia Ethics Commission.
(h) No member of the council who serves by virtue of his or her office may receive any compensation or reimbursement of expenses for serving as a member. The public members and members of any committees or subcommittees are entitled to be reimbursed for actual and necessary expenses incurred for each day or portion thereof engaged in the discharge of his or her official duties in a manner consistent with the guidelines of the Travel Management Office of the Department of Administration.
(i) No person is subject to antitrust or unfair competition liability based on membership or participation in the council, which provides an essential governmental function and enjoys state action immunity.
§31G-1-4. Powers and duties of the council generally.
(a) The council shall:
(1) Explore any and all ways to expand access to broadband services, including, but not limited to, middle mile, last mile and wireless applications;
(2) Gather data regarding the various speeds provided to consumers in comparison to what is advertised. The council may request the assistance of the Legislative Auditor in gathering this data;
(3) Explore the potential for increased use of broadband service for the purposes of education, career readiness, workforce preparation and alternative career training;
(4) Explore ways for encouraging state and municipal agencies to expand the development and use of broadband services for the purpose of better serving the public, including audio and video streaming, voice-over Internet protocol, teleconferencing and wireless networking;
(5) Cooperate and assist in the expansion of electronic instruction and distance education services; and
(6) Explore ways to achieve digital equality of opportunity throughout the state, which is a condition where all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy.
(b) In addition to the powers set forth elsewhere in this article, the council is hereby granted the authority to:
(1) Promote awareness of public facilities that have community broadband access that can be used for distance education and workforce development;
(2) Advise on deployment of e-government portals such that all public bodies and political subdivisions have homepages, encourage one-stop government access and that all public entities stream audio and video of all public meetings;
(3) Make and execute contracts, commitments and other agreements necessary or convenient for the exercise of its powers including, but not limited to, the hiring of consultants to perform the duties of the council;
(4) Acquire by gift or purchase, hold, or dispose of real property and personal property in the exercise of its powers and performance of its duties as set forth in this article; and
(5) Receive and dispense funds appropriated for its use by the Legislature to carry out its statutory duties.
(c) The council shall advise and make recommendations to the Office of Broadband, and shall coordinate with the office on bringing broadband service to unserved and underserved areas, as well as to propose statutory changes that may enhance and expand broadband in the state.
(d) The council shall report to the Secretary of Economic Development on or before December 1 of each year. The report shall include the action that was taken by the council during the previous year in carrying out the provisions of this article. The council shall also make any other reports as may be required by the Legislature or the Governor.
§31G-1-5. Creation of the Broadband Enhancement Fund.
All moneys collected by the council, which may, in addition to appropriations, include gifts, bequests or donations, shall be deposited in a special revenue account in the State Treasury known as the Broadband Enhancement Fund. The fund shall be administered by and under the control of the Secretary of the Department of Commerce. Expenditures from the fund shall be for the purposes set forth in this article and are not authorized from collections but are to be made only in accordance with appropriation by the Legislature and in accordance with the provisions of article two, chapter eleven-b of this code.
§31G-1-6. Mapping of areas within state.
§31G-1-7. Retention of outside expert consultant.
(a) In order to assist the council with the highly technical task of categorizing the areas of the state, the council may retain outside expert consultants to assist in the purposes of this article. The experts may assist the Council to map the state on the basis of broadband availability, to evaluate and categorize data, to assist in public outreach and education in order to stimulate demand and to provide other support and assistance as necessary to accomplish the purposes of this article.
(b) The retention and contracting of all expert consultants shall be transparent, including specifically, making publicly available any contracts, retention agreements, payments and invoicing for services.
§31G-1-8. Public awareness and education.
In order to implement and carry out the intent of this article, the council may take such actions as it deems necessary or advisable in order to increase awareness of issues concerning broadband services and to educate and inform the public.
§31G-1-9. Collection of data.
§31G-1A-1. Office of Broadband; Director of Office.
There is hereby established an Office of Broadband, which shall be organized within the Department of Economic Development under the authority of the Secretary of Economic Development. The Office of Broadband shall be managed by a director, who shall report to the Secretary of Economic Development.
§31G-1A-2. Powers and duties of the Office of Broadband generally.
(a) The Office of Broadband shall have the following duties:
(1) Explore any and all ways to expand access to broadband services, including, but not limited to, middle mile, last mile, and wireless applications;
(2) Gather data regarding the various speeds provided to consumers in comparison to what is advertised. The office may request the assistance of the Legislative Auditor in gathering this data;
(3) Cooperate and assist in the expansion of electronic instruction and distance education services;
(4) Gather and report data regarding the adoption by broadband services, by speed, and by community, separately for residential and non-residential consumers;
(5) Gather and report data regarding prices charged for broadband services to residential and non-residential consumers, including, but not limited to one-time fees, monthly fees, termination fees, equipment fees, and other fees;
(6) Incorporate the goal of digital equality in its fulfillment of responsibilities, which is a condition where all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy, and economy;
(7) Provide for the increased public awareness of issues concerning broadband services; and
(8) Report to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance of the West Virginia Legislature on or before December 30 of each year.
(b) In addition to the powers set forth elsewhere in this article, the Office of Broadband is hereby granted the authority necessary and appropriate to carry out and effectuate the purpose and intent of this article, including, but not limited to, the authority to:
(1) Make and execute contracts, commitments, and other agreements necessary or convenient for the exercise of its powers, including, but not limited to, the hiring of consultants to assist in the mapping of the state and categorization of areas within the state;
(2) Acquire by gift or purchase, hold, or dispose of real or personal property in the exercise of its powers and performance of its duties as set forth in this article;
(3) Receive and dispense funds appropriated for its use by the Legislature or other funding sources or solicit, apply for, and receive any funds, property, or services from any person, governmental agency, or organization to carry out its statutory duties;
(4) To oversee the use of conduit installed pursuant to §31G-3-2 of this code;
(5) Make recommendations to the Legislature on bringing broadband service to areas of the state;
(6) Contract with and retain outside expert consultants to assist in the purposes of this article;
(7) Create guidelines for, and recommend to the Legislature, a means of implementing a voluntary donation program to allow for pipeline, railroad, and other similar structures and rights-of-way in the state to be donated to the state for use by public or private entities to facilitate broadband service and availability through placement of fiber;
(8) Create guidelines for, and recommend to the Legislature, a means of implementing a program to allow for an easement program to be established to allow public or private entities to facilitate broadband service and availability through placement of fiber;
(9) Coordinate with the Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Attorney General to provide for the following consumer protections:
(A) If a broadband service to a subscriber is interrupted for more than 24 continuous hours, such subscriber shall, upon request, receive a credit or refund from the broadband operator in an amount that represents the proportionate share of such service not received in a billing period, provided such interruption is not caused by the subscriber;
(B) A broadband operator may not deny service, deny access, or otherwise discriminate against subscribers, channel users, or any other citizens on the basis of age, race, religion, sex, physical handicap, political affiliation, political views, or exercise of other speech protected by the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution, or country of natural origin;
(C) A broadband operator shall provide subscribers 30 days advance written notice of any changes to rates or charges, including the expiration of any promotion or special pricing that would result in an increase in the subscribers billing or cost of service; and
(D) A broadband operator shall inform subscribers and provide written notice to subscribers that disputes regarding interrupted or substandard service or billing issues, which are unresolved to satisfaction of the subscriber; and
(10) Perform any and all other activities in furtherance of the purposes of this article.
(c) In furtherance of the purposes of this article, the Office of Broadband is permitted to seek non-state funding and grants. The Office of Broadband may utilize funding and grants to support the responsibilities, initiatives, and projects set forth in this article. The Office of Broadband may additionally disburse such moneys to fund projects and initiatives in furtherance of the enhancement and expansion of broadband services in this state, and the other purposes of this article.
Acts, 2018 Reg. Sess., Ch. 31.
§31G-1-11. Voluntary donation and easement programs.
(a) The council shall create guidelines for, and recommend to the Legislature a means of implementing a voluntary donation program to allow for pipeline, railroad, and other similar structures and rights-of-way in the state to be donated to the state for use by public or private entities to facilitate broadband service and availability through placement of fiber.
(b) The council shall create guidelines for, and recommend to the Legislature a means of implementing a program to allow for an easement program to be established to allow public or private entities to facilitate broadband service and availability through placement of fiber.
§31G-1-13. Protection of proprietary business information.
(a) Broadband deployment information provided to the council or its consultants and other agents, including, but not limited to, physical plant locations, subscriber levels, and market penetration data, constitutes proprietary business information and, along with any other information that constitutes trade secrets, shall be exempt from disclosure under the provisions of chapter twenty-nine-b of this code: Provided, That the information is identified as confidential information when submitted to the council.
(b) Trade secrets or proprietary business information obtained by the council from broadband providers and other persons or entities shall be secured and safeguarded by the state. Such information or data shall not be disclosed to the public or to any firm, individual or agency other than officials or authorized employees of the state. Any person who makes any unauthorized disclosure of such confidential information or data is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, may be fined not more than $5,000 or confined in a correctional facility for not more than one year, or both.
(c) The official charged with securing and safeguarding trade secrets and proprietary data for the council is the Secretary of Administration, who is authorized to establish and administer appropriate security measures. The council chair shall designate two additional persons to share the responsibility of securing trade secrets or proprietary information. No person will be allowed access to trade secrets or proprietary information without written approval of a minimum of two of the three authorized persons specified above.
§31G-1-14. Legislative rule-making authority.
In order to implement and carry out the intent of this article, the Secretary of the Department of Commerce, at the direction and recommendation of the council, may propose rules for legislative approval, pursuant to the provisions of article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code.
As used in this article:
(1) “Cooperative association” or “association” means any corporation organized under this article. Each association shall also comply with the requisite business corporation provisions of chapter thirty-one-d or thirty-one-f of this code, or the nonprofit corporation provisions of chapter thirty-one-e of this code.
(2) “Internet services” means providing access to, and presence on, the internet and other services. Data may be transmitted using several technologies, including dial-up, DSL, cable modem, wireless, or dedicated high-speed interconnects.
(3) “Member” means a member of an association without capital stock and a holder of common stock in an association organized with capital stock.
(4) “Qualified person” means a person who is engaged in the use of internet services, either in an individual capacity, as a political subdivision of this state, or as a business.
(5) “Qualified activity” means using internet services.
§31G-2-2. Who may organize.
Notwithstanding any provision of this code to the contrary, twenty or more qualified persons engaged in the use of internet services may form a cooperative association, with or without capital stock, under this article.
§31G-2-3. Legislative findings and purposes.
(a) It is the finding of the Legislature that:
(1) West Virginia’s cities, towns, and other concentrated population areas, areas of the state, mostly rural, remain unserved or underserved by broadband access; and
(2) The lack of affordable, accessible broadband service in the underserved and unserved areas in this state necessitates consideration of alternative means and methods of providing internet services.
(b) It is the purpose of this article that individuals and businesses be able to form cooperative associations for the purpose of obtaining internet services within their respective regions and communities.
(a) A cooperative association shall have the following powers:
(1) To engage in any qualified activity in connection with any internet service; or any activity in connection with the purchase, providing or use by its members of internet services; or in the financing, directly, through the association of any qualified activities. All transactions with nonmembers shall be on terms fixed by the association and nonmembers shall not otherwise participate in any benefits derived from such transactions;
(2) To borrow money without limitation as to amount of corporate indebtedness or liability, and to make advance payments and advances to members; to execute, issue, draw, make, accept, endorse and guarantee, without limitation, promissory notes, bills of exchange, drafts, warrants, certificates, mortgages, and any other form of obligation or negotiable or transferable bills of any kind; to become the surety, guarantor, maker, and/or endorser for accommodation or otherwise of bills, notes, securities and other evidences of debt of any association or person, anything in any other statutes or law of this state to the contrary notwithstanding;
(3) To act as the agent or representative of any member or members in any of the above-mentioned activities;
(4) To purchase or otherwise acquire, and to hold, own and exercise all rights of ownership in, and to sell, transfer or pledge, or guarantee the payment of dividends or interest on, or the retirement or redemption of, shares of the capital stock or bonds of any corporation or association engaged in any related activity or in the providing and marketing of any of the products handled by the association;
(5) To establish reserves and to invest the funds thereof in bonds or in such other property as may be provided in the bylaws;
(6) To buy, hold and exercise all privileges of ownership over real or personal property as may be necessary or convenient for the conduct and operation of any of the business of the association, or incidental thereto;
(7) To establish, secure, own and develop patents, trademarks and copyrights; and
(8) To do each and every thing necessary, suitable, or proper for the accomplishment of any one of the purposes or the attainment of any one or more of the subjects herein enumerated, or conducive to or not contrary to the interest or benefit of the association; and to contract accordingly; and, in addition, to exercise and possess all powers, rights and privileges necessary or incidental to the purposes for which the association is organized or to the activities in which it is engaged, and any other rights, powers, and privileges granted by the laws of this state to ordinary corporations, except such as are inconsistent with the purposes of this article.
(a) Under the terms and conditions prescribed in the bylaws adopted by it, a cooperative association may admit as members, or issue common stock to, only qualified persons.
(b) If a member of a nonstock association be other than a natural person, the member may be represented by an individual, associate, officer or manager or member thereof, duly authorized in writing.
(c) One association organized hereunder may become a member or stockholder of any other association or associations organized under this article or similar laws of any state.
§31G-2-6. Articles of incorporation.
Each association formed under this article shall prepare and file articles of incorporation, setting forth:
(1) The name of the association, which shall include the words “cooperative,” “co-operative,” or “co-op,” and words or abbreviations designating a corporation;
(2) The purposes for which it is formed;
(3) The place where its principal business will be transacted;
(4) The period, if any prescribed, for the duration of the corporation;
(5) The number of incorporators which is not less than twenty, the number of directors which is not less than twenty and any number in excess of those minimums, or it may be set forth that the number of directors will be fixed by the bylaws;
(6) If organized without capital stock, whether the property rights and interest of each member are equal or unequal; and if unequal, the general rules applicable to the classes of members whose property rights and interest are determined and fixed; and provision for the admission of new members who may be entitled to share in the property of the association with the old members, in accordance with the general rules. This provision of the articles of incorporation may not be altered, amended or repealed except by the written consent or vote of three fourths of the members;
(7) If organized with capital stock and authorized to issue only one class of stock, the total number of shares of stock which the association has authority to issue, including: (A) The par value of each of the shares; or (B) a statement that all the shares are to be without par value;
(8) If the association is authorized to issue more than one class of stock, the total number of shares of all classes of stock which the association may issue, including: (A) The number of shares of each class that have a par value and the par value of each share by class; (B) the number of shares that are to be without par value; and (C) a statement of the powers, preferences, rights, qualifications, limitations or restrictions that are permitted by section thirteen of this article in respect to a class of stock fixed by the articles of incorporation or by resolution of the board of directors;
(9) The articles shall be signed and filed in accordance with the provisions of the business or nonprofit corporation laws of this state; and
(10) The articles may also contain any provisions managing, defining, limiting or regulating the powers and affairs of the association, the directors, the stockholders or members of the association.
§31G-2-7. Amendments to articles of incorporation.
The articles of incorporation may be altered or amended at any regular meeting or any special meeting called for that purpose. An amendment must first be approved by two thirds of the directors and then adopted by a vote representing a majority of all the members of the association. Amendments to the articles of incorporation, when so adopted, shall be filed in accordance with the provisions of the general corporation laws of this state.
Each association incorporated under this article, must, within thirty days after its incorporation, adopt for its government and management a code of bylaws, not inconsistent with the powers granted by this article. A majority vote of the members or stockholders, or their written assent, is necessary to adopt such bylaws. Each association, under its bylaws, may provide for any or all of the following matters:
(1) The time, place and manner of calling and conducting its meetings;
(2) The number of stockholders or members constituting a quorum;
(3) The right of members or stockholders to vote by proxy or by mail or both; and the conditions, manner, form, and effect of such votes;
(4) The number of directors constituting a quorum; and, if authority therefor is given in the articles of incorporation, the total number of directors;
(5) The qualifications, compensation, duties and term of office of directors and officers; time of their election and the mode and manner of giving notice thereof;
(6) Penalties for violation of the bylaws;
(7) The amount of entrance, organization and membership fees, if any; the manner and method of collecting the same; and the purposes for which they may be used;
(8) The amount which each member or stockholder shall be required to pay annually or from time to time, if at all, to carry on the business of the association; the charge, if any, to be paid by each member or stockholder for services rendered by the association to him or her and the time of payment and the manner of collection; and the marketing contract between the association and its members or stockholders which every member or stockholder may be required to sign; and
(9) The number and qualifications of members or stockholders of the association and the conditions precedent to membership or ownership of common stock; the method, time and manner of permitting members to withdraw or the holders of common stock to transfer their stock; the manner of assignment and transfer of the interest of members and of the shares of common stock; the conditions upon which and time when membership of any member shall cease; the automatic suspension of the rights of a member when he or she ceases to be eligible to membership in the association; the mode, manner and effect of the expulsion of a member; the manner of determining the value of a member’s interest, and provision for its purchase by the association, at its option, upon the death or withdrawal of a member or stockholder, or upon the expulsion of a member or forfeiture of his or her membership, or, at the option of the association, the purchase at a price fixed by conclusive appraisal by the board of directors, or at the election of the board, such property interests may be sold at public auction to the association itself, or to any person eligible to membership in such association and the proceeds of such sale paid over to the personal representative of such deceased member, or to the member withdrawing or expelled, as the case may be.
§31G-2-9. General and special meetings.
In its bylaws, each association shall provide for one or more regular meetings annually. The board of directors shall have the right to call a special meeting at any time; and ten percent of the members or stockholders may file a petition stating the specific business to be brought before the association and demand a special meeting at any time. Such meeting must thereupon be called by the directors. Notice of all meetings, together with a statement of the purposes thereof, shall be mailed to each member at least ten days prior to the meeting: Provided, That the bylaws may require instead that such notice may be given as provided by this section, namely, as a Class I legal advertisement in compliance with the provisions of article three, chapter fifty- nine of this code, and the publication area for such publication shall be the county in which the principal place of business of the association is located.
(a) The affairs of the association shall be managed by a board of not less than three directors, elected by the members or stockholders.
(b) The bylaws may provide that the territory in which the association has members shall be divided into districts and that the directors be elected either directly or by district delegates elected by the members in that district. The bylaws shall specify the number of directors to be elected by each district, the manner of reapportioning the directors and the method of redistricting the territory covered by the association. The bylaws may provide that primary elections shall be held in each district to elect the directors apportioned to the districts and that the results of all the primary elections may be ratified during the next regular meeting of the association or may be considered final.
(c) The bylaws may provide that one or more directors may be appointed by a public official, commission or by the other directors. These public directors shall represent the interest of the general public in the associations. The public directors need not be members or stockholders of the association, but shall have the same powers and rights as other directors. The directors shall not number more than one fifth of the entire number of directors.
(d) An association may provide a fair remuneration for the time actually spent by its officers and directors in its service and for the service of the members of its executive committee. No director, during the term of his or her office, shall be a party to a contract for profit with the association differing from the contractual terms accorded regular members or holders of common stock of the association.
(e) The bylaws may provide that no director, except the president and secretary, shall occupy a position in the association on regular salary or substantially full-time pay.
(f) The bylaws may provide for an executive committee and may allot to the committee all the functions and powers of the board of directors, subject to the general direction and control of the board.
(g) When a vacancy on the board of directors occurs other than by expiration of term, the remaining members of the board, by a majority vote, shall fill the vacancy, unless the bylaws provide for an election of directors by district. In that case the board of directors shall immediately call a special meeting of the members or stockholders in that district to fill the vacancy.
The directors shall elect from their number a president and one or more vice presidents. They shall also elect a secretary and a treasurer, who need not be directors or members of the association; and they may combine the two latter offices and designate the combined office as secretary-treasurer; or unite both functions and titles in one person. The treasurer may be a bank or any depository, and, as such, shall not be considered an officer, but as a function of the board of directors. In such case, the secretary shall perform the usual accounting duties of the treasurer, except that the funds shall be deposited only as and where authorized by the board of directors.
§31G-2-12. Officers, employees and agents to be bonded.
Every officer, employee and agent handling funds or negotiable instruments or property of or for any association created hereunder shall be required to execute and deliver adequate bonds for the faithful performance of his or her duties and obligations.
§31G-2-13. Stock; membership certificate; voting; liability; limitations on transfer and ownership.
(a) When a member of an association established without capital stock has paid his or her membership fee in full, he or she shall receive a certificate of membership. An association shall have power to issue one or more classes of stock, or one or more series of stock within any class thereof, any or all of which classes may be of stock with par value or stock without par value, with such voting powers, full or limited, or without voting powers and in such series, and with such designations, preferences and relative, participating, optional or other special rights, and qualifications, limitations or restrictions thereof, as shall be stated and expressed in the articles of incorporation, or in any amendment thereto, or in the resolution or resolutions providing for the issue of such stock adopted by the board of directors pursuant to authority expressly vested in it by the provisions of the articles of incorporation or of any amendment thereto.
(b) No association shall issue stock to a member until it has been fully paid for. The promissory notes of the members may be accepted by the association as full or partial payment. The association shall hold the stock as security for the payment of the note; but such retention as security shall not affect the member’s right to vote.
(c) No member shall be liable for the debts of the association to an amount exceeding the sum remaining unpaid on his or her membership fee or his or her subscription to the capital stock, including any unpaid balance on any promissory notes given in payment thereof.
(d) An association in its bylaws may limit the amount of common stock which one member may own. No member or stockholder shall be entitled to more than one vote, regardless of the number of shares of common stock owned by him or her.
(e) Any association organized with stock under this article may issue preferred stock, with or without the right to vote. Such stock may be sold to any person, member or nonmember, and may be redeemable or retireable by the association on such terms and conditions as may be provided for by the articles of incorporation and printed on the face of the certificate. The bylaws shall prohibit the transfer of the common stock of the association to persons who are not qualified persons, or organizations that are not engaged in qualified activities handled by the association, or to persons or organizations that are not members of credit associations financing such products; and such restrictions shall be printed upon every certificate of stock subject thereto.
(f) Other kinds and classes of stock may be issued in compliance with the provisions of the articles of incorporation, the terms of the bylaws, or special resolutions of the board of directors.
(g) The association may, at any time, as specified in the bylaws, except when the debts of the association exceed fifty percent of the assets thereof, buy in or purchase its common stock at the book value thereof, as conclusively determined by the board of directors, and pay for it in cash within one year thereafter.
§31G-2-14. Removal of officer or director.
(a) Any member may bring charges against an officer or director by filing them in writing with the secretary of the association, together with a petition signed by five percent of the members, requesting the removal of the officer or director in question. The removal shall be voted upon at the next regular or special meeting of the association and, by a vote of a majority of the members, the association may remove the officer or director and fill the vacancy. The director or officer against whom such charges have been brought shall be informed in writing of the charges previous to the meeting and shall have an opportunity at the meeting to be heard in person or by counsel and to present witnesses; and the person or persons bringing the charges against him or her shall have the same opportunity.
(b) In case the bylaws provide for election of directors by districts with primary elections in each district, then the petition for removal of a director must be signed by twenty percent of the members residing in the district from which he or she was elected. The board of directors must call a special meeting of the members residing in that district to consider the removal of the director; and by a vote of the majority of the members of that district the director in question shall be removed from office.
Upon demand of one third of the entire board of directors, made immediately and so recorded, at the same meeting at which the original motion was passed, any matter of policy that has been approved or passed by the board must be referred to the entire membership or the stockholders for decision at the next special or regular meeting; and a special meeting may be called for the purpose.
§31G-2-16. Marketing contract.
The association and its members may take and execute marketing contracts, requiring the members, for any period of time not over five years, to use, receive or provide all or any specified part of an internet service exclusively to or through the association, or any facilities to be created by the association. If they contract a sale to the association, it shall be conclusively held that title to the products, goods and services passes absolutely and unreservedly, except for recorded liens, to the association upon delivery, or at any other specified time if expressly and definitely agreed in such contract. The contract may provide, among other things, that the association may sell or resell the products, goods and services delivered by its members, with or without taking title thereto, and pay over to its members the resale price, after deducting all necessary selling, overhead and other costs and expenses, including interest or dividends on stock, not exceeding eight percent per annum, and reserves for retiring the stock, if any; and any other proper reserves; or any other deductions.
§31G-2-17. Remedies for breach of contract.
The bylaws or the marketing contract may fix, as liquidated damages, specific sums to be paid by the member or stockholder to the association upon the breach by him or her of any provision of the marketing contract regarding the sale or delivery or withholding of internet services, and may further provide that the member will pay all costs, premiums for bonds, expenses and fees, in case the association shall prevail in any action brought by it upon the contract; and any such provisions shall be valid and enforceable in the courts of this state; and such clauses providing for liquidated damages shall be enforceable as such and shall not be regarded as penalties.
In the event of any such breach or threatened breach of such marketing contract by a member, the association shall be entitled to an injunction to prevent the further breach of the contract and to a decree of specific performance thereof. Pending the adjudication of such an action and upon filing a verified complaint showing the breach or threatened breach, and upon filing a sufficient bond, the association may be entitled to a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the member.
In any action upon such marketing agreement, it shall be presumed as between the parties that the landowner, landlord or lessor claiming therein so to be is able to control the delivery of internet services produced on his or her land by tenants or others, whose tenancy or possession or work on such land or the terms of whose tenancy or possession or labor thereon were created or changed after execution by the landowner, landlord or lessor of such marketing agreement; and in such actions the foregoing remedies for nondelivery or breach shall lie and be enforceable against such landowner, landlord or lessor.
§31G-2-18. Purchasing property of other associations, persons, firms or corporations.
Whenever an association, organized under this article with preferred capital stock, shall purchase the stock of any property, or any interest in any property, or any person, firm or corporation or association, it may discharge the obligations so incurred, wholly or in part, by exchanging for the acquired interest shares of its preferred capital stock to an amount which at par value would equal the fair market value of the stock or interest so purchased, as determined by the board of directors. In that case the transfer to the association of the stock or interest purchased shall be equivalent to payment in cash for the shares of stock issued.
§31G-2-19. Annual reports.
Each association formed under this article shall prepare an annual report on forms provided by and filed with the Secretary of State pursuant to the requirements of section two-a, article one, chapter fifty-nine of this code.
§31G-2-20. Conflicting laws not to apply.
Any provisions of law which are in conflict with this article shall be construed as not applying to the association herein provided for.
§31G-2-21. Interest in other corporations or associations.
An association may organize, form, operate, own, control, have an interest in, own stock of, or be a member of any other corporation or corporations, with or without capital stock, and engaged in qualified activities regarding internet services.
§31G-2-22. Contracts and agreements with other associations.
Any association may, upon resolution adopted by its board of directors, enter into all necessary and proper contracts and agreements and make all necessary and proper stipulations, agreements and contracts and arrangements with any other cooperative corporation, association or associations, formed in this or in any other state, for the cooperative and more economical carrying on of its business or any part or parts thereof. Any two or more associations may, by agreement between them, unite in employing and using, or may separately employ and use, the same personnel, methods, means and agencies for carrying on and conducting their respective business.
§31G-2-23. Rights and remedies apply to similar associations of other states.
Any corporation or association heretofore or hereafter organized under generally similar laws of another state shall be allowed to carry on any proper activities, operations and functions in this state upon compliance with the general regulations applicable to foreign corporations desiring to do business in this state, and all contracts made by or with such associations, which could be made by any association incorporated hereunder, shall be legal and valid and enforceable in this state with all of the remedies set forth in this article.
§31G-2-24. Associations heretofore organized may adopt provisions of article.
Any corporation or association organized in this state under previously existing statutes may, by a majority vote of its stockholders or members, be brought under the provisions of this article by limiting its membership and adopting the other restrictions as provided herein. It shall make out in duplicate a statement signed and sworn to by its directors to the effect that the corporation or association has, by a majority vote of the stockholders or members, decided to accept the benefits and be bound by the provisions of this article and has authorized all changes accordingly. Articles of incorporation shall be filed as required in section six of this article, except that they shall be signed by the members of the then board of directors. The filing fee shall be the same as for filing an amendment to articles of incorporation.
Where any association may be incorporated under this article, all contracts made prior to the date of incorporation, by or on behalf of such association by the promoters thereof in anticipation of its becoming incorporated under the laws of this state, whether or not such contracts be made by or in the name of some corporation organized elsewhere, and when they would have been valid if entered into subsequent to such date, shall be held valid as if made after such date.
§31G-2-25. Liability as to delivery of products in violation of marketing agreements.
Any person who solicits, persuades or permits any member of any association organized hereunder to breach his or her marketing contract with the association or one association with another, by accepting or receiving such member’s products for sale or for auction or for display for sale, contrary to the terms of any marketing agreement of which such person has knowledge or notice, shall be liable to the association aggrieved in a civil suit for damages therefor. Courts of equity shall have jurisdiction to enjoin further breaches of such contract.
§31G-2-26. Associations to be deemed not in restraint of trade.
No association organized under this article and complying with the terms thereof shall be deemed to be a conspiracy or a combination in restraint of trade or an illegal monopoly or an attempt to lessen competition or to fix prices arbitrarily; nor shall the marketing contract and agreements between the association and its members or any agreements authorized in this article be considered illegal as such or in unlawful restraint of trade or as part of a conspiracy or combination to accomplish an improper or illegal purpose.
§31G-2-27. Application of business corporation laws; nonprofit corporation laws.
The provisions of the business corporation laws in chapter thirty-one-d or the nonprofit corporation laws in chapter thirty-one-e of this code and all powers and rights thereunder shall apply to the associations organized under this article and may be used by them, except when the provisions are in conflict with or inconsistent with the express provisions of this article.
“Microtrenching” means a technique of deploying cables, including specifically for broadband networks, using a cutting wheel to cut a trench with smaller dimensions than can be achieved with conventional trench digging equipment; with the trench dimensions being no greater than three inches in width, and a depth between one and two feet.
§31G-3-2. Microtrenching permitted; notification.
(a) A person may perform microtrenching, where such is feasible, to the extent allowed by a permit issued by the appropriate municipality, county or state agency. All microtrenching work performed must be in accordance with the National Electrical Safety Code and other generally accepted safety codes.
(b) A person must install conduit in a way that will readily permit another owner to add length to the microtrenching by connecting its own conduit to the first owner’s conduit. Where an owner connects its own conduit to another owner’s previously installed conduit, the owner must install conduit that has the same number of pathways or pipes as the previous owner’s conduit.
(c) A person must install a vacant conduit of the same size as its own conduit when performing microtrenching operations. Other persons desiring use of conduit in the same area may make use of this vacant conduit upon application to the Broadband Enhancement Council.
(d) When applying for a permit a person must notify the appropriate permitting entity of the intended dates of the start and completion of microtrenching construction. Notification must be made on a form and in a format prescribed by the appropriate permitting entity. No fee shall be charged for such application, as the installation of additional vacant conduit under the provisions of this section shall function in lieu of a fee. The person shall submit the following documents to the appropriate permitting entity:
(1) Proof of insurance; or
(2) An indemnification agreement.
(e) Promptly after completion of microtrenching construction, but no longer than forty calendar days after issuance of the permit for microtrenching, the entity must file a document with the appropriate permitting entity containing the following information:
(1) An “as-built” drawing of the conduit installed. The “as-built” drawing will be treated as proprietary and confidential, to the extent permitted by law.
(2) A map showing the street location of the conduit including the side of the street the conduit is on, the beginning and ending points of the conduit, the number of ducts in the conduit, and the number of ducts of excess capacity in the conduit. The map must accurately reflect the addresses of buildings that are passed by the conduit.
As used in this article, the following terms are defined as follows:
(1) “Applicable codes” means uniform building, fire, electrical, plumbing, or mechanical codes adopted by a recognized national code organization, including, but not limited to, the National Electrical Safety Code, or any local amendments to those codes: Provided, That notwithstanding any other provisions of said applicable codes, the Code of West Virginia, or the West Virginia Code of State Rules, variances for the installation and maintenance of broadband service infrastructure on utility poles shall be permitted if these are agreed upon between infrastructure owners.
(2) “Attacher” means any person, corporation, or other entity, or the agents or contractors of such seeking to permanently or temporarily fasten or affix any type of equipment, antenna, line, or facility of any kind to a utility pole in the right of way or its adjacent ground space.
(3) “Attachment application” means the application made by an attacher to a pole owner for attachment of equipment, antenna, line, or facility of any kind to a utility pole. It shall include:
(A) Proof of insurance; or
(B) An indemnification agreement prepared by the pole owner.
(4) “Broadband service” means the same as that term is defined in §31G-1-2 of this code.
(5) “Commission” means the Public Service Commission as set forth in §24-1-1 et seq. of this code.
(6) “Make-ready-costs” means the costs incurred by an attacher associated with the transfer of the facilities, antenna, lines, or equipment of a pre-existing third-party user, undertaken by an attacher to enable attachment to the utility pole or similar structure. Make-Ready Costs that are to be paid by an attacher include, without limitation, all costs and expenses to relocate or alter the attachments or facilities of any pre-existing third-party user as may be necessary to accommodate an attacher’s attachment.
(7) “Telecommunications carrier” means either:
(A) A telecommunication carrier as determined by the Department of Economic Development; or
(B) A telecommunication carrier that meets the definition of such with respect to the Federal Communication Commission, as set forth in 47 U.S.C. § 153.
(8) “Pole owner” means a person, corporation, or entity having ownership of a pole or similar structure in the right of way to which utilities, including without limitation, electric and communications facilities, are located or may be located whether such ownership is in fee simple or by franchise.
(9) “Pre-existing third-party user” means the owner of any currently operating facilities, antenna, lines, or equipment on a pole or its adjacent ground space in the right of way.
(10) “Utility facility” means the same as that term is defined in §17-2A-17a of this code.
(11) “Utility poles” or “poles” means poles that are used to support electrical, cable television, telephone, and broadband service.
(12) “Wireless access” means access to and use of a right-of-way for the purpose of constructing, installing, maintaining, using, or operating telecommunications facilities for wireless communication purposes.
§31G-4-2. Attachment to third party facilities.
(a) Upon approval of an Attachment Application, an Attacher may relocate or alter the attachments or facilities of any Pre-Existing Third Party User as may be necessary to accommodate an Attacher’s attachment using Pole Owner approved contractors; provided, however, that an Attacher will not effectuate a relocation or alteration of a Pre-Existing Third Party User’s facilities that causes or would reasonably be expected to cause a customer outage without first providing 45 days prior written notice to the Pre-Existing Third Party User, in order to permit the Pre-Existing Third Party User to relocate its facilities on its own.
(b) In the event the Pre-Existing Third Party Users of such other facilities fail to transfer or rearrange their facilities within 45 days from receipt of notice of relocation or alteration of a Pre-Existing Third Party User’s facilities that causes or would reasonably be expected to cause a customer outage, an Attacher may undertake such work.
(c) Within 30 days of the completion of any relocation or alteration, an Attacher shall send notice of the move and as-built reports to the Pre-Existing Third Party User and the owner of all poles or other structures on which such relocations or alterations were made. The as-built reports shall include a unique field label identifier, and an address or coordinates.
(d) Upon receipt of the as-built reports, the Pre-Existing Third Party User and pole or structure owner(s) may conduct an inspection within 14 days at an Attacher’s expense. An Attacher shall pay the actual, reasonable, and documented expenses incurred by the Pre-Existing Third Party User and pole or structure owner for the inspection. If any such relocation or alteration results in the facilities of the Pre-Existing Third Party User on the pole or other structure failing to conform with the applicable safety Pole Owner’s standards, the Pre-Existing Third Party User shall, within seven days of the inspection, notify an Attacher of such failure to conform.
(e) In a notice, the Pre-Existing Third Party User may elect to either:
(1) Perform the correction itself and bill the Attacher for the actual, reasonable and documented costs of the correction, or
(2) Instruct the Attacher to correct such conditions at Attacher’s expense. Any post-inspection corrections performed by the Attacher must be completed within 30 days of such notification.
(f) As a condition of exercising the ability to relocate, rearrange, or alter a Pre-Existing Third Party User’s facilities pursuant to this section, an Attacher shall indemnify, defend and hold harmless the owner or owners of all poles or other structures on which such relocation, rearrangement or alteration takes place, the affiliates of such owner or owners, and the officers, directors and employees of such owner or owners and their affiliates, each being deemed an Indemnitee, from and against all third party damage, loss, claim, demand, suit, liability, penalty or forfeiture of every kind and nature, including, but not limited to, costs and expenses of defending against the same, payment of any settlement or judgment therefor and reasonable attorney’s fees, that are actually and reasonably incurred by an Indemnitee, by reason of any claim by an affected Pre-Existing Third Party User or any person or entity claiming through such Pre-Existing Third Party User arising from such relocation, rearrangement or alteration.
(g) All work performed must be in accordance with applicable codes, as defined in section one of this article, including, but not limited to, the National Electrical Safety Code: Provided, That the variances to applicable codes and to private agreements as set forth in §31G-6-1 of this code shall apply to this section.
(h) In the event an ILEC accepts payment for make-ready work, and fails to perform that work within 45 days, the ILEC which has been paid and which has failed to perform the work, shall immediately return and refund the moneys paid for that work which was not completed. Failure to return those funds within 14 calendar days shall be cause for a fine, payable to the Public Service Commission, equal to the amount of the payment and a cause of action in circuit court for return of the payment and is subject to treble damages, reasonable attorney’s fees, and any applicable court costs. Good-cause and good-faith efforts to have performed the work shall be a defense against the imposition of any fine: Provided, That the provisions of this subsection shall not apply to any make-ready work where a pole replacement is necessary.
(a) Notwithstanding any provision of this code to the contrary, the provisions of this article shall not apply to:
(1) Facilities located above the “Communication Worker Safety Zone” as such term is defined in the National Electrical Safety Code; or
(2) Any electric supply facilities wherever located.
(b) This article does not authorize any activity requiring an electric supply outage.
§31G-1A-3. Mapping of areas within state.
(a) Based on its analysis of data, broadband demand, and other relevant information, the Office of Broadband shall establish a mapping of broadband services in the state. The council shall publish an annual assessment and map of the status of broadband, including specific designations of unserved areas of the state. With respect to unserved areas of the state, the Office of Broadband shall, to the extent it is able, map project areas with funding provided by public entities. For the purposes of this section, the term “unserved area” means an area lacking broadband internet service from at least one terrestrial broadband internet service provider offering all of the following in at least one service plan to residential consumers: (1) an actual downstream data rate of at least 25 megabits per second; and (2) an actual upstream data rate of at least three megabits per second; and (3) unlimited data usage without overage charges; and (4) unlimited data usage without “throttling” or reduction of downstream or upstream data rate due, in whole or in part, to the amount of data transferred in any period.
(b) To the extent possible, and subject to limitations contained in subsection (g) of this section, the Office of Broadband shall additionally establish an interactive public map reflecting estimated or actual downstream data rate and upstream data rate in a particular region, area, community, street or location. Any such mapping may only specify data rates at a particular street address or physical location, and shall not make public the IP address or the name of the specific individual at such location. This map shall be known as the West Virginia Broadband Availability Map.
(c) To the extent possible, and subject to limitations contained in subsection (g) of this section, the Office of Broadband shall additionally establish an interactive public map reflecting the adoption of broadband services, separately by estimated or actual downstream data rate and upstream data rates, in a particular region, area, community, street or location. Any such mapping shall provide data separately for residential connections and non-residential connections. This map shall be known as the West Virginia Broadband Adoption Map.
(d) The mapping provided for in this section may be based on information collected or received by the Broadband Council and Office of Broadband, including, but not limited to, data collected from:
(1) State and federal agencies or entities that collect data on broadband services;
(2) Industry provided information;
(3) Consumer data provided to the Broadband Council or Office of Broadband pursuant to §31G-1A-6 and §31G-1A-9 of this code; and
(4) Other data sources procured by or provided to the Office of Broadband or the Broadband Council.
(e) Any entity that has received or hereinafter receives state or federal moneys, and which has used those moneys to install infrastructure used for broadband services, shall furnish detailed information concerning the location, type, and extent of such infrastructure to the Office of Broadband for use in mapping and shall furnish the location, type, and prices of any broadband services subscribed to by residential (and separately non-residential) consumers as a result of the installed infrastructure.
(f) The mapping and designations provided for under this section may be revised on a continuing basis by the office as warranted by the data and information provided.
(g) In addition to the provisions of §31G-1A-13 of this code, the mapping of broadband services may exclude from public accessibility and availability:
(1) The location or identity of any critical infrastructure used by public or private entities in furtherance of their internet services;
(2) Personal name and personal IP addresses connected with particular data rates; and
(3) Information designated as confidential for public security reasons by either state or federal homeland security agencies: Provided, That it shall be duty of the public and private entities to make the Office of Broadband aware of such confidential designation: Provided, however, That unless the Office of Broadband determines good cause exists, the actual or estimated upstream and downstream data rates of an area or region of the state shall not be excluded from public or private availability.
(h) All executive agencies which have permitting and/or regulatory approval authority over any project permitted or reviewed and approved pursuant to §17-2E-3 of this code shall cooperate with and provide all necessary information to the Office of Broadband to determine the feasibility and federal allowability of creating Advanced Regulatory Environment Analysis (AREA) maps. AREA maps will pre-survey likely routes for middle-mile infrastructure so all relevant information can be included in a centralized GIS mapping system to be maintained by the Office of Broadband for utilization by the private sector when extending new fiber infrastructure pursuant to §17-2E-1 et seq. of this code. AREA mapping shall also include, but is not limited to, any areas already granted Finding of No Significant Impact (“FONSI”), categorical exclusions (“CATEX”), areas prior approved by the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office (“SHPO”), and all West Virginia Division of Highways mapping for permits that include installation of infrastructure.
(i) If in analyzing the consumer-supplied speed data for an area of two square miles or more, the Office of Broadband finds that speeds supplied by a provider are less than 80% of the lowest speed tier advertised by the provider in more than 40% of the tests in that area in a calendar year, then the Office of Broadband shall notify the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office, and shall transmit such records of any relevant speed tests in their custody to the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office.
§31G-4-5. Electric power utilities; feasibility study for providing broadband services; Public Service Commission to assist; proposed legislation to be developed; report.
(a) For purposes of this section:
(1) “Commission” shall mean the West Virginia Public Service Commission.
(2) “Council” shall mean the Broadband Enhancement Council, as defined in §31G-1-1 of this code.
(3) “Electric utility” shall mean any electric utility operating within this state that is regulated by the commission.
(4) “Project” shall mean a middle-mile broadband infrastructure expansion project proposed by an electric utility.
(b) Each electric utility may investigate the feasibility of constructing and operating a project within the electric utility distribution system and, if it so elects, may submit a feasibility study of a proposed project to the council on or before December 1, 2019. Additional feasibility studies may be submitted to the council after December 1, 2019, without penalty.
(c) The council and the commission shall assist each such electric utility in its preparation of such a feasibility study.
(d) The feasibility study shall include an evaluation of the following:
(1) The scope of the proposed project for which the feasibility study is conducted, which shall include, but not be limited to:
(A) The route of the middle-mile infrastructure proposed for the project, the number of fiber strands that would be utilized in connection with the proposed project and dedicated to serve as the middle-mile, the location of the electric utility’s distribution infrastructure that will be utilized in connection with the proposed project, the capacity of the middle-mile broadband infrastructure that will be available to lease to last-mile broadband Internet providers upon completion of the proposed project;
(B) The estimated cost of the proposed project, including but not limited to engineering costs, construction costs, permitting costs, materials and labor, right-of-way costs, and a reasonable rate of return to the electric utility;
(C) The proposed schedule of construction of the proposed project; and
(D) The method of attachment and connection of the middle-mile broadband fiber assets to the electric utility’s distribution infrastructure;
(2) The regulatory and legal barriers to an electric utility constructing a project and operating middle-mile broadband infrastructure to provide access to unserved areas of the state, as defined in §31G-1-2 of this code, and proposed legislation to address such regulatory barriers;
(3) Whether it is in the public interest and the interest of the electric utility to make improvements to the distribution grid in furtherance of providing such middle-mile broadband Internet services in conjunction with its program of electric distribution projects;
(4) Whether it is in the public interest and the interest of the electric utility to operate middle-mile broadband Internet assets to provide access to unserved areas of the state;
(5) Whether it is in the public interest and the interest of the electric utility to permit a third party to lease such capacity to provide last-mile broadband Internet services to unserved areas of the state;
(6) Whether construction of middle-mile broadband Internet infrastructure utilizing electric utility distribution systems is feasible with respect to the maturity of the relevant technology, the compatibility of such services with existing electric services, and the financial requirements to undertake such project;
(7) The anticipated level of rate adjustment necessary to allow the electric utility to recover its costs associated with the proposed project, and a reasonable rate of return, on an expedited basis, that will be recovered by the electric utility through a rate adjustment at the commission; and
(8) Such other information that is pertinent to the project.
(e) Upon receipt of a feasibility study, the council shall post the same on the council website for written public comment for a period of seven days and then shall render a determination, by a majority vote of the council, as to the feasibility of the proposed project.
(f) In its consideration of the feasibility of a project, the council shall identify one or more last-mile broadband Internet providers that may lease the middle-mile broadband Internet capacity created by the proposed project pursuant to lease terms and conditions set by the council.
(g) The council shall render such feasibility determination within 60 days from the date the feasibility study is submitted to the council.
(h) Commencing January 1, 2020, and each year thereafter, the council shall give a report of its consideration of feasibility studies submitted pursuant to this section to the Governor, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Delegates, and the Joint Committee on Government and Finance.
§31G-4-5a. Electric Cooperative Providing Broadband Services.
An electric cooperative organized pursuant to state and federal law, including the Rural Electrification Act of 1936, may utilize its distribution system, poles, or rights of way to provide for critical infrastructure, which may include the construction or operation, or both, of a broadband infrastructure project consisting of middle mile or last mile services, or both.
Pursuant to §2-2-10 of this code, if any provision of this article or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held unconstitutional or invalid, such unconstitutionality or invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications of the article, and to this end the provisions of this article are declared to be severable.
§31G-1A-7. Broadband Development Fund.
(a) The Broadband Development Fund is hereby created in the State Treasury. The fund shall be administered by the Secretary of the Department of Economic Development and shall consist of all moneys made available for the purposes of this article from any source, including, but not limited to, all gifts, grants, bequests or transfers from any source, any moneys that may be appropriated to the fund by the Legislature, and all interest or other return earned from investment of the fund. Expenditures from the fund shall be for the purposes set forth in subsection (b) of this section and are not authorized from collections but are to be made only in accordance with appropriation by the Legislature and in accordance with the provisions of §12-3-1 et seq. of this code and upon the fulfillment of the provisions set forth in §11B-2-1 et seq. of this code: Provided, That for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, expenditures are authorized from collections rather than pursuant to an explicit appropriation by the Legislature. Any balance, including accrued interest and other returns, remaining in the fund at the end of each fiscal year shall not revert to the General Revenue Fund but shall remain in the fund and be expended as provided by this section.
(b) Monies of the Broadband Development Fund may only be expended for the following purposes:
(1) Expenses for the administration of the Office of Broadband;
(2) Line extension advancement and development projects, including expansion of existing fiber and cable networks;
(3) Major broadband project strategies, including new networks or major expansions of existing networks;
(4) GigReady incentive projects, including a state incentive for ISP and local governments and organizations to pool some of their federal American Rescue Plan Act allocations or other local funding;
(5) Wireless Internet Networks, including expansions or upgrades of existing fixed wireless networks.
(c) Except funds expended for the administration of the Office of Broadband, monies of the Broadband Development Fund may only be expended for projects authorized by subsection (b) of this section that have been certified to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance by the Director of the Office of Broadband or the Secretary of the Department of Economic Development prior to making the expenditures.
§31G-5-1. Short title.
This article shall be known and cited as the Vertical Real Estate Management and Availability Act.
For the purposes of this article unless the context otherwise requires:
“Ground facilities” means any shed, buildings, server rooms, or other ancillary structure providing essential services to a tower, including, but not limited to, distributing power, providing communications backhaul, or other service necessary to carry out the purposes of the tower.
“Tower” means a structure which hosts an antenna or other equipment used for the purposes of transmitting cellular or wireless signals for communications purposes, including telephonically, or, for computing purposes, including any antenna and all associated equipment; and
“Vertical Real Estate” means any communication or broadcast tower, or any other structure or similar installation mounted on a rooftop or other prominent place, and any other such facilities associated with that structure, upon which is suitable to mount communications equipment thereon, and the associated ground facilities necessary to accommodate that communications purpose, or other real estate suitable for the installation of a telecommunications vertical asset: Provided, That any excess telecommunications facilities owned or controlled by the West Virginia Division of Highways that do not meet this definition of Vertical Real Estate, shall be subject to the provisions of §17-2E-6a of this code: Provided further, That nothing in this definition may serve to prohibit terrestrial, middle-mile or last-mile broadband or high speed internet wiring or facilities installation pursuant to §17-2E-1 et seq. nor may classification as such facilities serve to prevent utility installation including, but not limited to, water, electric and sewer services.
§31G-5-3. Management of vertical real estate.
(a) Beginning on July 1, 2020, the Department of Administration shall coordinate with the executive to issue a request for proposals to manage state-owned vertical real estate. This request for proposals shall contain at a minimum the following information from each prospective manager:
(1) A standard method for valuation of space on each tower that is reasonable and customary for the reach of and the numbers of the population served by the vertical real estate.
(2) A clause which forbids any vendor to enter into an exclusive arrangement with any person for the right to use the vertical real estate, unless no other entity is interested, and a clause which forbids the sharing of information, backhaul, or any other resources gleaned from managing the assets competitively with any competitors.
(3) A clause forbidding the vendor from engaging in any preferential treatment to their own operations as a competing provider of wireless broadband access.
(4) A minimum of 50 percent rental reduction for any entity whose utilization of that vertical real estate is providing broadband access which is rate unlimited or unthrottled; subject to current load/demand network management.
(b) There is hereby created in the state treasury a special account to be known as the Technology Infrastructure Reinvestment Fund to be administered by the Office of Technology. All revenue derived from the management of the vertical real estate shall be deposited into the fund pursuant to §31G-5-3 of this code. Expenditures from the fund shall be made by the Office of Technology for the purpose of reinvestment in the vertical real estate or technology infrastructure supporting broadband on state-owned property. Expenditures are not authorized from collections but are to be made in accordance with appropriation by the Legislature pursuant to the provisions of §12-3-1, et seq. of this code and upon the fulfillment of the provisions of §11B-2-1, et seq. of this code.
(c) The Office of Technology shall remit to the manager the compensation as per the contract and then on June 30 each year shall distribute any funds received in excess of the compensation due the manager as follows:
(1) Fifty percent to the Technology Infrastructure Reinvestment Fund,
(2) Fifty percent will go to the Broadband Expansion Fund established in §31G-1-5 of this code in control of the Broadband Enhancement Council with the specific purpose of:
(A) Funding the ongoing operations of the Broadband Enhancement Council, and
(B) To provide funds to match federal grants.
(d) Counties, municipalities and other political subdivisions, as applicable, may join or participate in an awarded agreement with a successful manager under the same terms and conditions: Provided, That distribution of funds attributable to their assets may be expended at the discretion of their governing body.
§31G-5-4. Exceptions to the management of vertical real estate.
Any vertical real estate shall be exempted from management if:
(A) The rental of that vertical real estate would potentially affect the operations of any public safety, emergency management or homeland security operations: Provided, That if there is a showing that a reasonable, technically feasible, nondiscriminatory design can prevent such adverse effect on any public safety, emergency management or homeland security operations then such management may occur; or
(B) It would have an adverse effect on historic preservation of a property: Provided, That if there is a showing that a reasonable, technically feasible, nondiscriminatory, and technologically neutral design or concealment measures can prevent such adverse effect on the property’s historic preservations then such management may occur.
§31G-1A-4. Collection of data.
(a) In order to ascertain, categorize, analyze, map, and update the status of broadband in the state, as well as to enable the Office of Broadband to make informed policy and legislative recommendations, the Office of Broadband may establish a voluntary data collection program. The program may include voluntarily submitted data from internet service providers, including any home or region data rate meters utilized by the provider. The program may also utilize and collect voluntarily submitted data rate information submitted by any person reflecting the person’s personal data rate at a particular IP address. This personal data rate may be based upon a web-based test or analysis program.
(b) Any and all data collected by the Office of Broadband shall not be deemed public information and is not subject to public release or availability pursuant to §29B-1-1 et seq. of this code.
(c) Any data collection program established by the Office of Broadband shall:
(1) Make clear to those providers or persons submitting information that the data rate speed may become public, including specific reference to the person’s physical address;
(2) Make clear this is a voluntary data collection program and that submission of information shall be deemed consent to use and make public such data rate information; and
(3) Not include any person’s personal web history or search information, or otherwise publicly identify the person’s name in connection with an IP address or physical address.
(d) The Office of Broadband may establish guidelines and additional rules governing a data collection program through the legislative rulemaking pursuant to the provisions of §29A-3-1 et seq. of this code.
§31G-1A-5. Protection of proprietary business information.
(a) Broadband deployment information provided to the Office of Broadband or its consultants and other agents, including, but not limited to, physical plant locations, subscriber levels, and market penetration data, constitutes proprietary business information and, along with any other information that constitutes trade secrets, shall be exempt from disclosure under the provisions of §29B-1-1 et seq. of this code: Provided, That the information is identified as or would reasonably be contemplated to be confidential information when submitted to the Office of Broadband.
(b) Trade secrets or proprietary business information obtained by the council or the Office of Broadband from broadband providers and other persons or entities shall be secured and safeguarded by the state. Such information or data shall not be disclosed to the public or to any firm, individual, or agency other than officials or authorized persons of the state.
(c) The official charged with securing and safeguarding trade secrets and proprietary data for the Office of Broadband is the Secretary of Economic Development, who is authorized to establish and administer appropriate security measures.
§31G-1A-6. Legislative rule-making authority.
In order to implement and carry out the intent of this article, the Secretary of the Department of Economic Development may propose rules for legislative approval pursuant to the provisions of §29A-3-1 et seq. of this code.
§31G-3-3. Conduit installation or fiber installation by counties, municipalities, and other political subdivisions.
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code to the contrary, any county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the State of West Virginia may:
(1) Install or contract with any entity for the installation of conduit, fiber, or broadband facilities throughout that political subdivision;
(2) Partner with any of the following entities, or any combination thereof, to install such conduit or communications facilities throughout that political subdivision:
(A) Nonprofit organization;
(B) Cooperative association;
(C) Another county, municipality, or political subdivision;
(D) Private corporations, company, or person; or
(E) Public-private partnership; and
(4) Partner with any of the following entities, or any combination thereof, which operate a network operations center, to operate a fiber network: Provided, That a political subdivision may operate a network for their own use:
(A) Nonprofit organization;
(B) Cooperative association;
(C) Another county, municipality, or political subdivision;
(D) Private corporations, company, or person; or
(E) Public-private partnership.
§31G-3-4. Compatible use.
(a) A broadband operator shall be authorized to construct or operate a broadband system:
(1) Over public rights-of-way; and
(2) Through easements, which are within the area to be served by the broadband system and which have been dedicated for compatible uses.
(b) In installing, operating, and maintaining facilities, the broadband operator shall avoid all unnecessary damage and injury to any trees, structures, and improvements in and along the routes utilized for the system.
(c) The broadband operator shall indemnify and hold the state, county and municipality harmless at all times from any and all claims for injury and damage to persons or property, both real and personal, caused by the installation, operation, or maintenance of its broadband system, notwithstanding any negligence on the part of the state, county, and/or municipality, their employees, or agents. Upon receipt of notice in writing from the state, county, and/or municipality, the broadband operator shall, at its own expense, defend any action or proceeding against the state, county and/or municipality in which it is claimed that personal injury or property damage was caused by activities of the broadband operator in the installation, operation or maintenance of its broadband system.
(d) The use of public highways and other public places shall be subject to:
(1) All applicable state statutes, municipal ordinances and all applicable rules governing the construction, maintenance, and removal of overhead and underground facilities of public utilities;
(2) For county highways, all applicable rules adopted by the governing body of the county in which the county highways are situated;
(3) For state or federal-aid highways, all public welfare rules adopted by the Commissioner of the Division of Highways; and
(4) With respect to the use of any public highway that crosses the trackway of any railroad, nothing in this article shall be construed to provide for any greater or any lesser compliance with any safety policy or procedure established by the railroad with respect to the construction of utility crossings across the railroad’s trackway that is applicable to any other similarly situated utility, whether utilizing aerial or buried lines.
(e) In the use of easements dedicated for compatible uses, the broadband operator shall ensure:
(1) That the safety, functioning, and appearance of the property and the convenience and safety of other persons is not adversely affected by the installation or construction of facilities necessary for a broadband system; and
(2) That the owner of the property is justly compensated by the broadband operator for any damages caused by the installation, construction, operation, or removal of facilities by the broadband operator.
(f) An “easement dedicated for compatible uses” is a public or private easement for electric, gas, telephone, or other utility transmission
§31G-6-1. Pre-emption in favor of broadband services; construction of language in agreements.
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of the West Virginia Code or the West Virginia Code of State Rules to the contrary, any ordinance of any political subdivision relating to broadband service is hereby pre-empted to the extent necessary in favor of such broadband installation.
(b) No corporate policy, organizational policy, institutional policy, agreement, contract, or other like document, including the rules and regulations of any Home Owners Association, or any similar entity or organization, promulgated or made effective after the effective date of this section, may regulate or prevent the exterior installation of antennas and equipment necessary to or typically utilized for broadband deployment and the terms of any such document shall be strictly construed in favor of encouraging and assisting broadband installation and deployment.
§31G-6-2. Pre-emption in favor of broadband service in pole attachments; construction of language in pole attachment agreements.
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of the West Virginia Code or the West Virginia Code of State Rules to the contrary, any ordinance of any political subdivision regarding pole attachment spacing, positioning, or order by or between any Investor Owned Utility (“IOU”) and any Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (“ILEC”) and/or Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (“CLEC”) which would seek to provide broadband service, is hereby pre-empted to the extent necessary in favor of such broadband installation or deployment.
(b) Any corporate policy, individual agreement, organizational policy, contract, or like document relating to pole attachment spacing, positioning, or order by or between any Investor Owned Utility (“IOU”) and any Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (“ILEC”) and/or Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (“CLEC”) shall be strictly construed in favor of encouraging and assisting broadband installation and deployment.
§31G-4-7. Ready pole access notification and cost sharing.
A pole owner or manager which has determined a utility pole ready for telecommunication fibers to be added, and the additional available capacity for that pole, is required to make such known to the West Virginia Department of Economic Development. Telecommunication carriers will be notified by the West Virginia Department of Economic Development within 15 days of the available space and the telecommunication carrier who intends to use the pole will share in the cost of the engineering work required. The telecommunication carrier shall be given 30 days to notify the pole owner or manager they will use the pole or poles for connectivity. The pole owner will be excluded from the requirements of this paragraph if the pole owner has an electronic permitting and notification software system for processing pole attachment applications.